Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Crocodile Club 2010

It was a great time and a huge success for the New England Carousel Museum.
I'll have more to say, I promise, but it was also a long, hot day and I'll post about it Wednesday. I wrote stories for The Bristol Press, and they should be in Wednesday's paper or online at http://www.bristolpress.com/, but I'll have other bits to share here as well.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Extra B.S. Exclusive: Original Crocodile Club Lyrics By Wallace Barnes

One of my favorite Bristol people is Wallace Barnes. I know him pretty well, but he still surprises me with his stories and recently, he shared one about the Crocodile Club that I can share with the readers of Extra B.S.

In 1954, at the tender age of 26, Wally ran against Tom Dodd (Chris Dodd's dad) for Congress in the First District. Our man from the Mum City "lost big time," as he put it, but had a lot of fun in the process.
In fact, he said, he was "infected by a lifetime case of 'politicicis.'"

A highlight of the race, he told me, was attending the Crocodile Club and performing a song at the event on the ukelele. He wrote the lyrics, set to the tune of "Five Foot Two."

It was, he told me, "one of the limited number of tunes I could play."
Now for your Extra B.S. exclusive,which I saved for right before the Crocodile Club.

Here are the lyrics, published with permission from the ukelele-playing Wally Barnes himself:

"Out in Bristol, by a clear cool lake
Every year there's a big sheep bake
They named it after a crocodile.

 
Gad Norton's plan was not too deep
He approached the boys who liked roast sheep
And they all ate like crocodiles!

 

Now, whether this tale is false or true
Is very hard to say.
But the Good Lord wasn't too dismayed
'cause the sun always shines on Crocodile Day.

 

So, eat the sheep, enjoy the fun
And doze away while the speeches run
Today we all are crocodiles."




Malloy Ready To Be a Crocodilian

Democrat Dan Malloy is taking time out from his race for governor to attend the Crocodile Club tomorrow.
Malloy was kind enough to call me today to let me know that he's looking forward to the event at Lake Compounce.
"I've never been, so I don't know what to expect," Malloy said. "I feel uninitiated."
He wondered if it's a casual event, so though I told him most people dress pretty casually and normally, I warned him about the likelihood of seeing old guys in plaid shorts and black socks.
He said he's working on his remarks, and I advised him to be funny. He said he didn't play an instrument, so he won't be jamming with host Ray Dunaway, who is expected to bring his accordian, or Rep. Frank Nicastro, who will bring his trumpet.
Malloy, who was mayor of Stamford from 1995 to 2002, said he never got an invitation before.
But then, he said he's never had so many friends as he seems to have right now.

No Butts - Cigar Smoking Tradition Snuffed

One of the traditions of the Crocodile Club -- enjoying an after-dinner cigar -- is over this year.
The state law prohibiting smoking inside bars and restaurants, which took effect in 2004, means that Crocodilians won't be able to light up and puff while listening to the speeches at tomorrow's dinner.
That's good news for those who like to breathe.
For those who like to smoke, there's an outdoor smoking area just outside the building, said Jerry Brick, general manager of Lake Compounce, which is hosting the dinner.
The last dinner was in 2002, before the smoking ban.
The New England Carousel Museum is reviving the Crocodile Club dinner, which for many generations was put on at the park by the Norton family. The dinner is now a fundraiser for the non-profit museum.
I wrote about the change in tradition for Tuesday's edition of The Bristol Press, so you can see the full story at http://www.bristolpress.com/.
So if you're a Crocodilian inclined toward a cigar, be prepared to take it outside.
Tickets to the dinner are still available, until 5 p.m. Monday at the museum and at the door on Tuesday. The party starts at noon.

Croc Tickets On Sale Today!

Until 5 p.m., you can buy your ticket to the Crocodile Club dinner at Lake Compounce for $50.
Tomorrow, at the door, they'll cost $55.
Not that the $5 will go to a bad cause -- proceeds are going to the New England Carousel Museum, which is worth a donation, but still, five bucks is five bucks and you might need it.
So you heard it here, folks -- get your tickets today at the museum on Riverside Avenue, or call them at 860-585-5411 and charge it.
A little while ago, Louise DeMars, the director of the musuem, told me nearly every candidate for statewide office, including both Dan Malloy and Tom Foley, candidates for governor, will be at the event.
About 300 tickets have been sold so far, which is impressive for the first year back since the last Crocodile Club dinner in 2002.

Iowa Is Hot, Beautiful And Not Flat


Bristol Board of Finance member John Smith went to my home state of Iowa last month to pedal his bicycle hundreds of miles from the Missouri River on its western border to the Mississippi on the east ide of the state.


I wrote a story for The Bristol Press about John's annual participation in RAGBRI, a hugely popular bike ride initially started by a couple writers for the Des Moines Register. I've never taken part in RAGBRI myself, though I love to bike and I love Iowa, so I am impressed that John ships his bike out to the Midwest nearly every summer to make the journey.

He enjoys the ride, the towns, the scenery, the warmth of the people and the experience of being part of thousands of people from around the world converging on this Midwestern state for a week.

The harsh weather? It's just part of the challenge.

Not very many Connecticut residents have spent any time in Iowa, so I love to hear John talk about how much he likes the place. I also appreciate his perspective on the landscape, which, while not at all mountainous, is decidely not flat.

The story I wrote appeared while I was in Iowa myself. I'm back in Connecticut now, trying to catch up a bit, but didn't want you to miss this.

The photo above is one John gave me. It shows a little of the landscape, a small number of the riders and John on the far right, pumping up the hill.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Hurricane Katrina, Five Years Later


Today marks five years since Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Louisiana coast.
Samantha Perez, a high school student from St. Bernard Parish -- whcih took the brunt of the storm -- was just starting her senior year when her family fled their home just before it hit.
Samantha Perez is a writer. She chronicled her own story of life before, during and after Katrina for Youth Journalism International. She began writing before the storm hit and continued for a year afterward. It's an amazing work, and if you haven't read it, take the time to do so.
This powerful, emotional and ultimately uplifting journal is all online in the independent teen newspaper, The Tattoo, at http://www.readthetattoo.com/.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Foley May Attend Croc

Tom Foley, Republican candidate for governor, told me recently that he's still figuring out whether he'll be able to make the Crocodile Club on Tuesday at Lake Compounce.
The Crocodile Club, an institution in Connecticut politics, will be Tuesday, Aug. 31 at the Starlite Ballroom at the park. It's being revived this year after ending in 2003. The New England Carousel Museum, which will benefit from any proceeds, is bringing it back.
I contacted both Foley and his Democratic opponent, Dan Malloy, to see if either of the candidates for governor will be at the dinner, and Foley answered right away. He didn't have a definitive answer but he got back to me and promised to follow up.
Something I really like about Tom Foley is that not only is he pleasant in person, each time I've reached out to him, he's responded pretty quickly and with a great deal of courtesy.
I know candidates are generally more responsive than seated officials, but my experience with Foley makes me think that if I had a question for Governor Foley, I'd be able to get an answer, from him.
That's not the case now with Gov. Rell. She's friendly when I see her in person, but there's no way to ask her anything directly if we're not eye to eye. 
I haven't heard from Malloy yet. He's always very friendly in person, but getting an answer otherwise hasn't been easy. I'll let you know when I hear again from either of them.
I hope they both decide to attend. It'll be a better event for it, and they'll have fun.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Larson Will Attend Crocodile Club

I just learned from Congressman John Larson's aide that he will be attending the Crocodile Club dinner on Tuesday at Lake Compounce.
The Crocodile Club is being revived after a break of several years. It will benefit the New England Carousel Museum.
Lake Compounce is donating the use of the uber cool Starlite Ballroom, Nuchies is catering and Ray Dunaway is the emcee.
This is an event not to be missed, especially in this election year.
I'm not sure what political heavy hitters will be making an appearance besides Larson but I will try to find out and pass it along to you.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Dziob Co-workers Ready to Rumble

Co-workers of Melissa Dziob at Countryside Manor and those of her late husband Jeff Dziob, who worked at the Bristol Post Office, will have a friendly and celebratory softball game on Saturday at Page Park. That's Jeff in the photo at the left.

The game starts at 4 p.m. and is a way to bring friends and family together in memory of Jeff, a much beloved husband, father of two young children, son, brother, co-worker and friend who was killed when a drunk driver smashed into his garage last December.

I hope they get great weather and are able to enjoy each other's company as they celebrate Jeff and life itself.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Egyptian Girl Chronicles Ramadan

Jessica Elsayed, a teenager in Alexandria, Egypt, is writing a Ramadan journal for Youth Journalism International, where she is one of my students.
Jessica is the kind of kid that makes you smile every time you get a note from her. She's so excited about life, about writing, about her future. Right now, she's thinking a lot about college, which comes for her next year.
She's been doing a good job of writing regularly during Ramadan, which is the Muslim holy month. As a Muslim, she's expected to be fasting for Ramadan from dawn to dusk. She starts the journal explaining what Ramadan is and is exploring other related topics as it goes along.
It's interesting reading. If you check it out, I bet you'll see why I'm so proud of Jessica and the rest of my hardworking young journalism students at YJI.
They give me good reason to believe in our future.
Here's the link: www.yjiblog.org

Monday, August 16, 2010

New Play By Press Booster

I just learned today that a new play called "Gray Matters" will be produced this fall in Hartford by the Emerson Theater Collaborative.
The play is by Connecticut playwright Jacques Lamarre, who works promoting the Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford.
I happen to know Jacques, who in a previous life also worked promoting both Hartford Stage and Theater Works, two awesome theaters in Hartford. He's a terrific guy with a great sense of humor, a strong faith (I once heard him deliver a sermon, but that's another story) and also a wonderful sense of community.
He was one of the people who helped put together the screening of the documentary about near demise of The Bristol Press early this year at the Twain House. For that alone, he deserves a pat on the back.
But Jacques, who is, shall we say, a little zealous about pushing whatever organization he's working for, has never told me about his own plays.
"Gray Matters," which premiered in New York at the Midtown International Theater Festival over the summer and then played in Mystic this month, runs in Hartford from September 9-11.
According to the Emerson Theater Collaborative, which serves youth, underserved communities and artists in Southeastern Connecticut, the play is a topical new comedy that focuses on what happens to an uninsured, unemployed actor when she loses her memory.
The show will be at the Charter Oak Cultural Center in Hartford.Information and tickets for "Gray Matters" can be obtained by visiting EmersonTheaterCollaborative.org. Tickets are $25 ($23 for students and seniors).

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Jonas Brothers, ESPN Softball Match-Up

ESPN photographer Joe Faraoni took some great shots of the Jonas Brothers/ESPN game Friday at the Rock Cats stadium in New Britain. I'll try to post more of them later.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Jonas Brothers, ESPN Matchup Today

Today's the big game, folks, between ESPN commentators and the Jonas Brothers boy band. It's a softball game at New Britain's Rock Cats stadium.
I'll have more on it after the big event, but if anyone out there is going and has photos or experiences they want to share through Extra B.S., send them to me at jmajerus@bristolpress.com.

Renaissance Offers 3-D 'Fly Through' Downtown

Renaissance Downtowns, the Long Island company that is working to re-create downtown Bristol, has a new website up. It's got a cool, 3D feature that you might like to check out.
Here's what they sent me about it:

Renaissance Downtowns at Bristol has launched a website to keep community members up to date and informed about the redevelopment efforts. The website, which can be found at www.rdatbristol.com will provide information and status updates about the project as well as some additional background information on Renaissance Downtowns and their comprehensive and holistic approach to downtown redevelopment.



The website includes a 3D animated “fly through” of what a revitalized downtown Bristol could look and feel like as well as renderings that are available for the public to view.

As the development efforts progress, additional information will be provided on the website including the significant benefits that the Bristol community will receive from the implementation of a comprehensive and holistic downtown redevelopment. Visitors to the website can also learn about the “Smart Growth” philosophy that is a key component of Renaissance’s development approach along with a listing of news and events regard both downtown Bristol and Renaissance Downtowns.

The site will also inform the public as to the significant pent up demand for downtown living options. It is this underlying market demand that will provide the ability for Bristol to reap significant economic and social rewards from its comprehensive downtown redevelopment efforts.

The website also provides community members an opportunity to have their voice heard. Residents can send suggestions to the Renaissance team that will be valuable in moving the development process forward with participation from concerned residents.

“The launch of the rdatbristol.com website is an important component of our open and transparent process. The site is a tool for both education and outreach and we hope it will be utilized by local residents to remain on top of the redevelopment efforts for their downtown” said Brandon Palanker, director of marketing and public affairs for Renaissance.

I Goofed

When I wrote about the Democratic primary in the race for registrar of voters late Tuesday night, I made a mistake and misidentified someone I spoke with at the Democratic victory party.
I wrote in a story that appeared on the front page of The Bristol Press and also in a blog post here that Don Padlo was a supporter of Elliot Nelson. I quoted him saying some things about the close race against Mary Rydingsward.
The trouble is that Don Padlo wasn't there. First of all, he's a Republican and doesn't support Nelson. Secondly, he was at the hospital having surgery on his eyes. (He's okay now.)
Padlo is one of Bristol's representatives on the Central Connecticut Regional Planning Agency board. I know him, but I still wrote his name by mistake instead of the name of the man I spoke with at the Democratic party.
I've apologized to both of them and I believe a correction ran in the paper.
Making mistakes like this, as Padlo graciously told me, is human. I chalk it up to sheer exhaustion, but I still feel lousy about it.
One of the things about being a reporter is that your productivity, accuracy and fairness is out there everyday for the whole world to see. So when I make a blunder, it's especially embarassing.
I've been off for a few days and am only getting to this now, but I felt it needed to be said.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Bristol Likes Malloy, Fedele, But Mostly, Lembo

Bristol's tallies, from the registrar's office, with my thanks to Republican Registrar Sharon Krawiecki who helped me out on deadline, are listed below. But before you scan through, there's one interesting thing that I don't want you to miss. The city's top vote-getter tonight was Kevin Lembo, who totally buried challenger Michael Jarjura in the primary for comptroller. Maybe voters got sick of seeing just how low Jarjura could go with his negative ads.

Republicans
Governor:
Tom Foley -- 477
Mike Fedele -- 543
Oz Griebel -- 303

Lieutenant Governor:
Mark Boughton -- 564
Lisa Wilson-Foley -- 681

U.S. Senator:
Linda McMahon -- 679
Peter Schiff -- 337
Rob Simmons -- 330

Congress:
Ann Brickley -- 632
Mark Zydanowicz -- 649

Attorney General:
Martha Dean -- 777
Ross Garber -- 510

Democrats:
Governor:
Dan Malloy -- 1,808
Ned Lamont -- 1,369

Lieutenant Governor:
Nancy Wyman -- 1,984
Mary Glassman -- 1,154

Secretary of the State:
Denise Merrill -- 1,975
Gerry Garcia -- 1,137

Comptroller:
Kevin Lembo -- 2,130
Michael Jarjura -- 905

Nelson Blames Women Voters

In an unexpected upset, challenger Mary Rydingsward narrowly beat Democratic Town Chairman Elliot Nelson in the race for registrar, 1,580 to 1,556.
“I’m passionate about democratic principles, and voting is one of those principles,” Rydingsward said at her victory party at the Downtown CafĂ©.
Nelson, the party-endorsed candidate, said he was surprised the race went to Rydingsward, a registered Democrat who has served as the treasurer of the Working Families party for the past two years. He said he’d expected to win by a comfortable 60-40 margin.
“It was the women vote that put her over the top,” said Nelson, who said he would ask for a recount because the vote was so close.
"The women don't love me," he moaned to a supporter.
Rydingsward said she had a lot of support and knocked on a lot of doors.
Asked whether the women’s vote made the difference, Rydingsward said, “I think the women, especially in Bristol, would like a qualified candidate in the position of registrar.”
Nelson said he ran a good campaign and was satisfied. He said he's still party chairman and planned to work hard to put a Democrat in the governor's mansion this fall.

Democratic Upset in Bristol; Rydingsward Victorious

Mary Rydingsward beat out Democratic Town Chairman Elliot Nelson in the primary tonight for Democratic Registrar of Voters.
Nelson, who was the party's endorsed candidate, chalked it up to the women's vote.
She said it's because she knocked on a lot of doors.
It was very close -- 1,580 to 1,556.
Nelson said he will ask for a recount because it was so close.
More later.

Larson Honors Victims of Manchester Violence

Congressman Larson led the U.S. House of Representatives in a moment of silence today in honor of the eight workers from Hartford Distributors who were murdered on the job last week in Manchester.
The moment is preceeded by Larson speaking for a few minutes about what happened and reading the names of those who were killed in that terrible violence, including Francis Fazio Sr. of Bristol.
Here's the link to the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=udqUYyYPqJ4

Turnout "Dead"

I just finished speaking with city Councilor Ken Cockayne. He told me turnout this morning wasn't even 5 percent. It's "dead," he said.
Where are the voters? I wonder if Bristol's low turnout is indicative of what we'll see statewide.

It's Primary Day -- Go Vote!

If you are at least 18 and an American citizen, I hope you are registered to vote. If you are registered as a member of either the Republican or Democratic party, please take a few minutes to go vote in today's primary.
I can't remember so many hotly contested statewide races as we have this year in Connecticut. Don't sit this one out. Take part and cast your ballot. It's your state, after all.


Monday, August 9, 2010

Maybe the Wizard Can Win the GOP Primary

I talked with Oz Griebel last week, trying to find out which of the candidates for governor planned to show up at this year's Crocodile Club.
Oz was the only one I spoke with who really knew what it was, though he'd never been to it.
For the record, Democrat Dan Malloy seemed to have heard of it (his running mate Nancy Wymany LOVES it) and Republican Tom Foley said he'd like to learn more. Democrat Ned Lamont and Republican Mike Fedele did not respond to my queries at all.
Anyway, back to Oz. He thought the Croc might be a great place to get ideas, which I thought was a wonderful attitude and indicative of his approach.
During our conversation, he also told me he's confident about the primary, which is Tuesday, August 10.
He said he thought he did well in the most recent debate, that Foley's numbers were dropping and Foley and Fedele were busy beating up on each other.
Oz told me he believed he could win it. I wished him well. It would be so cool to have a governor named Oz, don't you think?
Remember, the Crocodile Club is Tuesday, August 31 at Lake Compounce. Don't miss it!

Crocodile Club Retrospective

I've been talking with people about the Crocodile Club's history.
The New England Carousel Museum is reviving the tradition started long ago by Gad Norton and continued until 2002 by his descendants at Lake Compounce, the family's amusement park.
The late, great Stretch Norton hosted the last Crocodile Club event in 2002 and sadly announced the next year that he could no longer manage it. That was the end of an awesome gathering, until the carousel museum this year got the permission and the blessing of the Norton family to start it up again.
Watch The Bristol Press for an upcoming story that looks back at the club's history and ahead to its revival, but don't wait to get your ticket -- contact the museum for that at http://www.thecarouselmuseum.org/.
As Stretch would say, "No tickee, no lambee!"

Friday, August 6, 2010

Foley Coming to the Crystal

Republican Tom Foley, who hopes to win the primary next week and be the party's candidate for governor, is making a stop in Bristol early Saturday. The word is, he'll be at the Crystal Luncheonette at 8:30 a.m. I'm not working Saturday and I hope I'll still be sleeping at 8:30 a.m., so don't look here for an account. I asked Foley if he could come on Friday or Monday instead, but he said the schedule is locked in. He also said he'd be back to Bristol, which was good to hear. The photo below is from the campaign, by the way. It wasn't taken at the Crystal.

Good Morning, Marinelli's

Photo by Kiernan Majerus-Collins
The coffee was really good at Marinelli's Supper Club in Burlington this morning.
I was there bright and early to hear Congressman Chris Murphy talk about saving manufacturing jobs.
Jim Marinelli was there, and the coffee was definitely on. He told me there aren't many early morning events at his place, which is, after all, a supper club.
Come to think of it, I'm not sure I've ever been there in the daytime before. They've got a beautiful lake behind the place -- a real asset. When I've been there in the past, it's been for the nights the restaurant hosts the Bristol Reunion Jazz Band.
Jim told me the band is off until October, but that in the meantime, they've got some French folk fiddlers coming in.
It's cool that they regularly host live music. If you get a chance, check it out.

Murphy for Manufacturing

Here's Congressman Chris Murphy, talking with the business crowd this morning at Marinelli's Supper Club in Burlington. Murphy, a Democrat who lives in Cheshire, represents Burlington, Plainville, New Britain, Waterbury and a bunch of other towns.
This morning, he was talking about his key priorities in Washington, which are to help preserve manufacturing jobs. He's got a couple pieces of legislation he hopes will help. One is a new version of the Buy American Act that he says will eliminate some of the loopholes that are bad for American manufacturers and the other is the American Jobs Matter Act, which would allow the government to consider the impact on American jobs when awarding a contract.
Murphy visited as a guest of the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce, and was the speaker for the chamber's regular "eggs and issues" breakfast gathering. I wrote about what he had to say for The Bristol Press, so hopefully you can see it here: http://www.bristolpress.com/.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

West End Clean-Up is Sunday Morning

Want to help making things a little better in Bristol?
There's a clean up planned for Sunday morning in the West End, a neighborhood so many people love to criticize.
I wish everyone who feels entitled to slam the West End would get up Sunday and join city Councilor Ken Cockayne, neighborhood residents and business owners and lend a hand toward cleaning it up.
If even half of those who post hateful comments about this struggling neighborhood on the Bristol Press website after my stories about the West End would join in the clean-up effort, the transformation could be amazing.
They're meeting at South Side Meat Market at 141 West St. at 9 a.m. and expect to be finished before noon.
The city is providing trash barrels, police are posting temporary "no parking" signs to keep the streets clear for cleaning and Bill Englert, the community-minded owner of City True Value and Just Ask Rental on Route 6, is generously donating the use of some power equipment for volunteers to use.
Volunteers should bring their own gloves and brooms if they have them. To keep from getting burned, wear sunscreen and a hat!
Cockayne said there are at least 25 people he knows are lined up but said he hopes a lot more will show up on Sunday. The effort on Sunday will not involve bulk waste or cleaning up in the Pequabuck River.
Questions? Call Cockayne at 860-584-5918.

Malloy Stops in Bristol

Dan Malloy, who hopes to win the primary Tuesday and be the Democratic candidate for governor in the fall, spent a little time in the Mum City Wednesday.
The former longtime mayor of Stamford rolled in to the ShopRite plaza on Route 6 with a small entourage that included his running mate, state Comptroller Nancy Wyman.
Malloy, who seemed to be full of energy, told me it was his fifth community of the day. He bounded into storefront after storefront, sticking out his hand and introducing himself.
All I could think was that this kind of campaigning must get pretty old, but Malloy, who is working to defeat opponent Ned Lamont on Tuesday, seemed to relish it.
He talked to shoppers and diners, approaching most of them on his own. Others came up to him to talk.
The guy on Lamont's payroll who follows Malloy around was there with his recording equipment. That's something relatively new to campaigns and I can't say I like it much.
This is at least three visits to Bristol by Malloy that I know of this year, not counting any Democratic Town Committee meetings they may have attended.
As far as I know, Lamont hasn't been in Bristol since he spoke to the chamber in February. Maybe he'll stop by before Tuesday.

Who Was That Robo Caller?

I was standing in the ShopRite plaza parking lot Wednesday afternoon, waiting for Democrat Dan Malloy to show up for his stop in Bristol when some local pols started talking about robo calls.
    State Rep. Chris Wright, a Bristol Democrat, said he got three robo calls asking him to vote for Malloy for governor in the primary Tuesday -- one from Congressman John Larson, one from Mayor Art Ward and one from himself.
    “It was a little strange,” Wright said, getting a call from himself urging him to vote.
     Hearing his own recorded voice was weird, Wright admitted.
    “That’s how I sound?” he said he asked himself. “No wonder everyone calls me ‘ma’am’ on the phone.”
     Wright blamed his high-pitched vocal chords on his dad, former state Rep. Gardner Wright, who’s been known to sound a bit squeaky.
     Ward said he gets the robo calls, too, but doesn't always listen to them.
     “I was supposed to get one from me,” Ward said. “I refused it.”

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Mayor's Brother-in-law Escaped Carnage

Mayor Art Ward told me just now that his brother-in-law, who was a truck driver at Hartford Distributors, escaped with his life Tuesday.
When his co-worker Omar Thornton started shooting as Thornton was reportedly being escorted from the building early Tuesday, the mayor's brother-in-law was only about a telephone pole's length away, Ward said.
"He escaped yesterday by jumping out a window," said Ward, with four others. "He saw him coming and he got out of there."
Ward, who used to be a salesman for Alan S. Goodman -- a competitor of Hartford Distributors -- said he knew four of the men who died in the shooting.
He'd met them on the road, Ward said, while they were all working, and sometimes, they socialized together. A couple of them attended a stag party for Ward's son, he said, adding that the friendships "go back a long time."
Ward estimated that only about four or five people from Bristol work at the Manchester company.
The mayor said he hasn't had much of a chance to talk with his brother-in-law since the horror.
"We're just grateful that my brother-in-law is fine."
Unless I speak with the brother-in-law, I'm not using his name.

Bristol's Francis Fazio a Victim

I just heard confirmation from Bristol Mayor Art Ward that Francis Fazio, Sr. of Wolcott St. died in the shooting at Hartford Distributors in Manchester on Tuesday.
The mayor said he knew Mr. Fazio a little bit, though not well.
"It's really a shame," he said.
My thoughts and prayers go out to Mr. Fazio's family and friends and all of those hurt by this rampage.

Kids Flocking for Free Meals

Here's something that's working well in Bristol: the summer breakfast and lunch program.
Thanks to a big push from the Bristol Community Organization (that's their logo to the left), the number of kids eating breakfast and lunch through the USDA program has skyrocketed this summer over last year's paltry figures.
Mostly, it seems it's due to moving the meals from inside O'Connell School on Park Street to the Rockwell Park pavillion. There's also been a real effort to raise awareness among kids and parents about the free meals.
I was over at the park the other day and it was positively teeming with kids of all sizes, playing on the playground, skating at the skatepark and swimming in the pool. Inside the pavillion, two nice women sat behind a couple of tables filled with sandwiches, fruit, fruit juice and milk. There's a decent assortment of sandwiches and the fruit was pears and nectarines that looked good. Kids can have a juice and a milk with their sandwiches and fruit.
The women, Elizabeth and Karen Welch (Karen is Elizabeth's mom) made sure to restock the food and drinks from a nearby cooler. They seemed to know a lot of the kids who came to eat, too.
Rockwell Park is considered an open site for the summer meals program. That means there's enough poverty in the neighborhood that everyone is qualified. No one needs to show any ID or register in advance. Just show up, kids, and chow down. It's really that simple.
The food isn't for adults and it's to be eaten at the site, so there's not much room for abuse. This is giving healthy food to kids who are busy playing (and some are working) in the park. Kids need it to grow their bodies and their brains and to stay healthy and happy. (Ever notice how skipping a meal makes you cranky?)
These little dynamos need fuel to keep going and I'm really glad they've got it.
Another open site in town is at Cambridge Park, which is also showing an increase in participation this year.
For the record, BCO doesn't run the program anymore, but the organization has stayed involved out of an interest in keeping kids fed. Whitsons, a school food service company, does run it and BCO and End Hunger Connecticut!, a non-profit organization, worked to organize the sites and are doing what they can to get the word out.
I wrote about this for The Bristol Press (http://www.bristolpress.com/) but I don't think it's run yet.

Bristol Victim of Manchester Shooting?

The heartbreak in Manchester may have reached Bristol.
Our police reporter, Lisa Backus, is working on a local story about the terrible shootings at Hartford Distributors in Manchester. The word is that a Francis Fazio, Sr., who lives on Wolcott Street, was one of those killed.
I hope it's not true, but if anyone has any information they can share, please let me know at jmajerus@bristolpress.com and I will pass it along to her. I will update as I get information.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Great Way to Remember a Friend

In honor of Jeff Dziob, who died tragically last year, his former co-workers at the Bristol Post Office will play a friendly softball game later this month against the employees at Countryside Manor, where his wife Melissa works.

I heard about the game from Diana Maciag, who works at Countryside Manor.

She said the idea is to have a big get together in honor of Jeff's memory. It's not a fundraiser, but a way for friends to celebrate his life and each other, she said.

The game is set for 4 p.m., Saturday, August 28 at Page Park.
Jeff, a loving husband and father of two young children, died December 27 last year when an apparently suicidal drunk driver smashed her out-of-control truck into his garage and killed him.

I admire Jeff and Melissa's incredible large group of friends and co-workers for taking part in this. I hope they get a warm day with a cool breeze and have a wondeful time together.

No Shortage of Help for Bristol Kids

When it comes to backpacks, Bristol's neediest kids ought to be covered pretty well.
There's a massive effort going on in several different sectors to collect backpacks and school supplies for children whose families can't afford to provide them.
The United Way will distribute about 400 packs to kids from kindergarten to eighth grade. They've found individuals, companies and organizations to "adop" one or more students and buy them a backpack, an outfit for the first day of school and supplies.
Donna Osuch, president of the United Way, said the packs are stuffed. She said the donors really get into it and often provide much more than is asked.
Though its volunteer and charity work called Team ESPN, the Bristol-based sports media giant will distribute about 300 packs to middle and high school students in Bristol -- and 500 more to needy kids in other areas where ESPN has a presence, said Rosa Gatti, a senior vice president. (Thanks, Rosa and ESPN, for thinking of Bristol teens, who often get forgotten in these kinds of collections. They need a hand, too, and their stuff costs more.)
Gloria Dei Lutheran Church is also collecting backpacks for kids of all ages. That's still going on, so if you've got the itch to join this backpack brigade, bring pencils, protractors, calculators, crayons, folders and more to the church.
Donations of any school supplies, packs or other items can be bought to the church at 355 Camp St. on Sunday mornings or between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays.
If you're a family or a student in need, my best advice is to check with The Salvation Army to see if you can get some help. If they can't help, I'm sure they'll send you to someone who can.
Thanks to all who are helping make the start of school a little easier on Bristol's struggling families.

The Shooting at Hartford Distributors

While we at The Bristol Press don't cover Manchester, I'm sure everyone is paying some attention to the terrible loss of life in the workplace shootings at Hartford Distributors today. I don't have anything to add to the story other than my own thought that it is horrible and probably reminds us all of the Connecticut Lottery killings. But Bristol's congressman, John Larson of East Hartford, has a big district that includes Manchester and he has a personal connection to the Hollander family. Larson was at the scene this morning and released these comments this afternoon:


"First of all, I send my deepest condolences to the Hollander family and the employees of Hartford Distributors affected by today's events. I am fortunate to call Ross Hollander a close, personal friend and over the years, I have gotten to know many of the great employees of the company. I visited the site earlier today to offer my support. This is a day or emotions no person, family, or loved one should have to experience.

“The Hollander family and the workers of Hartford Distributors have donated to our local charities and provided their time to bettering our state. I ask that we all be there for them during this critical time. My heart is with the deceased, the Hollander family and all those affected by this morning's tragedy.”

Chamber Plans "Best Place" Campaign

Mike Nicastro, president of the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce, knows a good thing.
Money Magazine recently rated Bristol 84th among the top 100 best small cities to live, with populations from 50,000 to 300,000.
That's great for Bristol, but Nicastro is making it work for the Mum City. He's jumping at the chance to use the Money Magazine "Best Places to Live 2010" logo to promote Bristol.
They're using in the chamber's electronic newsletter and on the digital sign on Route 6.
More uses of the logo to come, Nicastro says, in the coming months, as he works it all out with Money Magazine.
To me, that's using common sense and it's also smart business.

ESPN Cuts Bait

The worldwide leader in sports is practicing the old angler's fish-friendly practice of catch and release.

ESPN announced today that it has "an agreement in principle" to sell BASS, LLC to a group of investors led by Don Logan, Jerry McKinnis and Jim Copeland. McKinnis, an outdoorsman, has a long history with ESPN as the host of the network’s second longest-running show, The Fishin’ Hole, which aired from 1980 until 2007, according to information provided by ESPN.

Until the deal is done, BASS will continue to be owned and operated by ESPN, which acquired it in 2001. Granted, holding it for most of a decade is a long time for catch and release, but my store of fishing word plays is somewhat limited.

BASS is the largest membership organization of bass anglers in the U.S. with more than 500,000 members, according to ESPN. It was purchased by ESPN in 2001 and includes several media platforms, including three magazines and a popular web site.

But viewers needn't fear that fishing will disappear from their television screens. As part of the deal, BASS’ core television programming assets – the Bassmaster Elite Series and Bassmaster Classic – will remain on ESPN networks, according to ESPN.

Maybe they'll even show those fins in 3D.

Former Crocodile Club Prez Warns Dunaway

Gerry Brooks, a Hartford NBC news anchor, served as Crocodile Club president some years ago, at the request of the late Stretch Norton, who ran the dinner for decades.

He's clearly got a good memory of the event and told me organizers made a good choice in picking WTIC's morning talk show host, Ray Dunaway, as this year's emcee.

“I'm glad they got Ray to preside over the festivities,” said Brooks. “He knows everybody, everybody knows him, and he's an equal opportunity offender.”

But Brooks said being the emcee won’t be all fun and games.

“His biggest challenge, of course, will be to try and deny Dick Blumenthal's request that he speaks first because he's ‘gotta run.’ And believe me, that is a challenge.”

The Crocodile Club used to draw hundreds of politicians, local celebrities and hangers on to the Starlite Ballroom at Lake Compounce every August. The last dinner was in 2002. After that, Stretch, whose great-great grandfather, Lake Compounce founder Gad Norton, started the tradition, announced that he couldn't manage it anymore.

The event is being revived as a fundraiser for the New England Carousel Museum, which seems fitting, given the love Stretch had for carousels.

Tickets are $50 each for the dinner, which begins at 2 p.m. in the ballroom following a social hour. Mail orders to the Crocodile Club, c/o the New England Carousel Museum, 95 Riverside Ave, Bristol, CT 06010. For more information, contact the museum, at (860) 585-5411 or download the reservation form on its website at www.thecarouselmuseum.org.

Monday, August 2, 2010

ESPN Traveler Loved South Africa

Let me introduce you to  Rick Abbott, who is head of global security and facilities for ESPN. That's a pretty big job, but when you think about how he had to figure out how to keep a crew of 350 ESPN employees safe while on location in South Africa for the FIFA World Cup this summer, it's hard to imagine how you'd even go about trying to tackle something like that.
Rick, who is as pleasant in person as he looks in his picture below, made a point of telling me how much he loved his experiences in South Africa. I wrote a story about it for Tuesday's edition of The Bristol Press (http://www.bristolpress.com/).
To keep things secure, he had to deal with the FBI, the CIA and the South African police, not to mention the U.S. State Department and fellow broadcasters from Mexico and England.
Together they worked out a strategy in hopes of keeping any kind of crime at bay, from petty theft to kidnapping and terrorism.
Whatever they did, including keeping police highly visible, worked, as the games ran smoothly.
He traveled to South Africa three times, and for the World Cup, stayed about a month, so he got to know the place.
What he learned from his experiences in South Africa, Rick told me, was that ESPN can do anything. And he didn't say it in a self important way, but more in a respectful realization of the power of an entire company all working together towards the same goal.
ESPN made its coverage of the World Cup one of the company's top three priorities this year. They take this stuff pretty seriously, too. Everyone has a company ID badge and right there are the top three priorities for the year. They're constantly reminded -- often in a fun way -- of the goal.
A little more about South Africa. He said the people were warm and so was the water. The wine? Fabulous. He wants to return, but for a vacation this time, not to work. He said he'll have plenty of friends to visit and places to stay when he gets there.